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A grab bag of the latest in jazz

Black Headline News
By Robin James

Photo courtesy of Blues and Greens Records

On August 17, 1959, “Kind of Blue” by jazz trumpeter, composer, and bandleader Miles Davis was released. It’s one of music’s most beloved albums of all-time. Rolling Stone magazine ranks it at number 12 on its greatest albums of all-time. “Kind of Blue” is certified 5x platinum. 

My favorite track, if I had to pick, is “Blue in Green.” The iconic recording features saxophonists John Coltrane, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianist Bill Evans, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and pianist Wynton Kelly. 

August 16 marks the birthday of pianist Duke Pearson, who was born in Atlanta, GA. Pearson’s album“Sweet Honey Bee,” released Jan 1, 1958,  is a favorite. Another album of his to check out is “Introducing Duke Pearson’s Big Band” released Jan 1, 1968. Check him out if you haven’t already done so. 

It was also on August 16, 1956, that the album “Ella and Louis” from Verve Records was recorded. The entire album—all 11 songs—were recorded in a single session. This album is truly a masterpiece. Highlights among the tracks include “Moonlight in Vermont” and “They Can’t Take that Away from Me.”


On Saturday, September 10 from 11 am to 7:30 pm at Selby and Milton in St. Paul, the Selby Avenue Jazz Festival will be happening again this year. The fest is free and open to the public. 

Entertainment includes headliner Lynval Jackson and the International Reggae All-Stars, plus the Erica West Band, Pavel Jany’s World Jazz Collegium, Selby Avenue Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy, and the Minnesota State Band. 

There will be a variety of vendors, including a number of food vendors and activities for kids. For more information, visit

Photo courtesy of Blues and Greens Records

Happy 83rd Birthday to vocalist Mary Stallings. She recently performed with pianist Emmet Cohen at Smoke Jazz Club in New York City. The club is currently celebrating its grand reopening. Stallings is a lifelong San Franciscan. Love her 2019 album “Songs Were Made to Sing” from Smoke Sessions Records. 

Oscar Peterson, one of the greatest jazz pianists of all-time with more than 200 recordings to his credit, also celebrated a birthday on August 15, 1925. He was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. 


Peterson was well-known for his dazzling solo technique. I was fortunate enough to have heard him play at Orchestra Hall. He played “Backyard Blues” twice and no one seemed to mind.

Did you know Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson was a big jazz fan? Earlier this month, actor Denzel Washington and others celebrated the grand opening of the August Wilson House, which will offer both artist residencies and other programming in the same house where Wilson grew up. 

Sixty years ago this month, the famous photo called “A Great Day in Harlem” by Art Kane appeared in Esquire magazine’s Golden Age of Jazz issue. It features 57 jazz musicians in front of a New York City apartment building. The two surviving musicians are saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Benny Golson who are both 90-something. 

Good luck to “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” bandleader and Grammy-winner Jon Batiste, who is leaving the show. Recently, Colbert made the announcement that Batiste would be leaving the show after seven seasons.

 Louis Cato will replace Batiste, who is moving on to pursue personal and professional interests. 


Pianist Cyrus Chestnut has a new album out entitled “My Father’s Hands” from HighNote Records, and I couldn’t be more excited. Jazz veteran players bassist Peter Washington and drummer Lewis Nash join Chestnut for this musical outing. For the week of Aug. 15., Jazzweek reported the album No.1 on the jazz radio chart. 

One of my favorite vocalists Lizz Wright is set to perform at the Dakota ( on September 1. In June, she released the album and short film “Holding Space.” Listen to the album and watch the short film via

Expect to hear her special alto voice and mix of R&B, gospel, blues and jazz. The album music features Wright live in Berlin in 2018. The set includes highlights such as Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights.” 

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